(L-R) Quincy Giles and Tamala Baldwin in Bubbly Brown Sugar. (Photo credit: Tamala Baldwin)
Directed by: LaVarro Jones, Tamala Baldwin
Written by: Tamala Baldwin
Starring: Tamala Baldwin, Rich Lowe, Jennifer Figuereo, Quincy Giles, James A. Pierce III, Jacinth Headlam, David Crownson, Randall Holloway, Cassagnol Leonidas Jr., Tyrone Nathaniel Reeves
Synopsis (PR Log): Independently produced in New York, with a cast and crew of over 30 individuals, Bubbly Brown Sugar (https://www.bubblybrownsugarseries.com) the nine-part series revolves around two soul mates that are being led to each other by some inexplicable magic that allows them to meet while they sleep. The show follows two soulmates, Jewel (Tamala Baldwin) and Caleb (Rich Lowe), as they begin their journey to finding each other – starting in their dreams. Every night they meet each other for an intense rendezvous and wake up the following morning longing to see one another once more. While Jewel is trying to manifest love in the real world, her mind constantly preoccupied with thoughts of him, Caleb is more confused than anything just wanting a good night’s sleep or maybe some answers.
Awards won: Best Series at the International Newark Film Festival, Best Series at the National Black Film Festival, Best Series at the SITA Awards, Best Series at the Direct Monthly Online Film Festival, Best Actor at the Austin Revolution Festival, Best Actress at the SITA Awards, Best Series Finalist Black Web Fest, Best Series Finalist at the First Glance Film Festival Philadelphia, Best Script Finalist Imagine This Women’s International Film Fest
Bubbly Brown Sugar was picked up by streaming service Urbanflix TV this September, and it’s coming to audiences at a great time. Us Black folks have been through a lot this year, and its high time we had some relief that celebrated us as humans on complex personal journeys. Even though Bubbly Brown Sugar might seem light at first blush–and indeed, it is a fun, frothy show–it also serves as an outlet for those of us who are tired of seeing images of us as objects of pain or strong archetypes.
“Bubbly Brown Sugar is a romantic odyssey that is a much welcome rebuttal to the stereotypical and negative images of Black and Brown people in media,” states the press release about the series. “It is a sorely needed balm, especially given the very uncertain times we are living in.”
The series also acts as yet another win for independent artists who want to change the media.
“I am over the moon to commence this new partnership with UrbanFlix TV, who is giving a platform to emerging filmmakers with unique stories to tell,” said Baldwin. “Not only does the this opportunity introduce our story to audiences across the world but represents what is truly possible in the world of independent filmmaking when parties on both sides of the camera come together to bring a story to life.”
The series follows Jewel (Baldwin), a video creator and social media maven who preaches to her audience about manifestation and sex-positivity. Jewel has her own relationship journey, which isn’t as cut-and-dried as she makes it seem on her video channel.
She’s been having what she feels are prophetic dreams about her soulmate, prompting her to end her relationship with Gabriel (Giles) and wait for her soulmate to come to her. The soulmate in question, Caleb (Lowe), is still trying to figure out what he wants. He’s trying to get over his ex Angela (Headlam) and testing out one night stands, something his friends Josiah (Reeves) and Zeke (Crownson) tell him isn’t like him at all.
Each 15-minute episode brings us more into the characters’ lives, particularly Jewel, who is often chided for her daydreaming ways by her friends Kimmi (Figuereo) and Kwame (Pierce). But, in the three episodes Baldwin gave me, it’s clear that Jewel is beginning to face a crossroads when it comes to living by her principles and meeting the needs of the flesh, particularly when it comes to Gabriel, who seemed like the perfect guy for her.
The series felt like a breath of fresh air for me. Like many the web series I like, some scenes gave the comfortable nostalgia similar to Boomerang, particularly when Caleb and his two guy friends are talking about relationships around the pool table.
The series also puts the idea of “manifesting your love” in perspective. Even though new age people make it seem easy to manifest your wildest dreams into your life, “manifesting” takes more than just wishing. It takes getting your priorities and needs in order, and at this point in the series, it’s unclear if Jewel knows what she wants or what she thinks a “soulmate” is. Caleb surely doesn’t know what he wants yet. But it’s fun to see these two grope their way through their journeys of the heart.
The series also has a darker subplot with Jewel’s friend Kimmi, whose boyfriend shows signs of controlling, abusive behavior. It’ll be scary to see if her boyfriend gets any worse, or if she shrinks herself to try to mold herself to her boyfriend. Thankfully, I’ve never been in an abusive romantic relationship, but I have been in an abusive dynamic with a boss. Now that I’m on the other side of that, it’s become even more challenging to see storylines involving abuse, so I hope Kimmi can kick her boyfriend to the curb in a timely manner.
Overall, Bubbly Brown Sugar is precisely what the title says. It’s full of bubbly fun, great music (including an original score by Tristan Leral), and the inspiring ambiance of New York City. In short, give Bubbly Brown Sugar a watch.